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Adrienne Ségur

Somewhere in Burgundy, we went to a book sale. There was a very unique book with beautiful, delicate yet modern illustrations: Il était une fois, vieux contes français de Charles Perrault.

That is where I found out about Adrienne Segur. Wikipedia gave me a short biography. This website is the best I found in english about her. And here is an article (fr) about an exhibition honouring Adrienne’s work: link 2 .

But internet is not very talkative when it comes to her life and work, which is a shame because she must have had a very interesting and rich life !

Adrienne Segur (23 November 1901 – 11 August 1981) was a French children’s book illustrator. Segur’s illustrations were made known by the publishing house Flammarion in the 1950s and 1960s and appeared particularly in The Fairy Tale Book, the English translation of Il Etait Une Fois published in 1958 by Golden Books, Simon and Schuster.

Segur was born in Athens, Greece, in the family of French writer Nicolas Segur. Around 1932 she married the Egyptian poet and thinker Mounir Hafez. (…) In 1936–1939, Segur was the director of the children’s column in Le Figaro where she made all the illustrations. Segur died in Paris, France in 1981.

 

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Super Books (a selection)

Those books I love and I always come back to. Beautiful books, funny books, super books I own and open on a regular basis just because it feels good.

  • Two books from an artist I really love (if I could I would buy everything she’s done) Aurélie William Levaux: “Sous ta barbe mon âme est morte” and “La Poutre de mon oeil.”

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Atelier

After reading a text by Paul Lafargue, I was inspired to create a book.

This book is in french but I did find an english version of the text if you are interested: The Woman Question (1904).

Page setting, illustrations, montage/seam by me.

Excerpt 

As Capitalism has not snatched woman from the domestic hearth and launched her into social production to emancipate her, but to exploit her more ferociously than man, so it has been careful not to overthrow the economic, legal, political and moral barriers which had been raised to seclude her in the marital dwelling. Woman, exploited by capital, endures the miseries of the free laborer and bears in addition her chains of the past. Her economic misery is aggravated; instead of being supported by her father or husband, to whose rule she still submits, she is obliged to earn her living; and under the pretext that she has fewer necessities than man, her labor is paid less; and when her daily toil in the shop, the office or school is ended, her labor in the household begins. Motherhood, the sacred, the highest of social functions, becomes in capitalistic society a cause of horrible misery, economic and physiologic. The social and economic condition of woman is a danger for the reproduction of the species.

Wondering: Symbolism & Pop culture

The reasons why Symbolism should inspired more people today are obvious. What you can read about this artistic movement is disturbing because it seems to fit so well in our current state of mind.

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Edgar Maxence

Symbolism initially developed as a French literary movement in the 1880s, and was in many ways a reaction against the moralism, rationalism, and materialism of the 1880s that had come to dominate Western European culture, and proclaimed the validity of pure subjectivity and the expression of an idea over a realistic description of the natural world. This fin-de-siècle period was a period of malaise – a sickness of dissatisfaction. Symbolism served as a means of escape.

Moralism, rationalism, materialism and, shall we add to that, consumerism. Besides, aren’t we in a “period of malaise”? Do I need to say more?

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Odilon Redon

As opposed to Impressionism, in which the emphasis was on the reality of the created paint surface itself, Symbolism was both an artistic and a literary movement that suggested ideas through symbols and emphasized the meaning behind the forms, lines, shapes, and colors. The works of some its proponents exemplify the ending of the tradition of representational art coming from Classical times. Symbolism can also be seen as being at the forefront of modernism, in that it developed new and often abstract means to express psychological truth and the idea that behind the physical world lay a spiritual reality. Symbolists could take the ineffable, such as dreams and visions, and give it form.

Symbolism successfully did what Pop art tried to do a few centuries later, but with talent. Yes, for me, there is no debate: the most controversial art movements of the 20th century, the so-called Pop art (and his scammer leader Andy Warhol) is just a big fraud. I never felt any spiritual values or connexion with any work I have seen. Art is subjective, of course, but art should also have a non-profit-making basis, which was obviously not the purpose of Pop art. It also said Symbolism opened a door to modernism: with the creation of new technologies, internet, blogs, online communities, we obviously need a new pair of eyes to understand our world. 

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Odilon Redon

Wanting to imbue their works with spiritual value, these progenitors of Symbolism produced imaginary dream worlds populated with mysterious figures from biblical stories and Greek mythology as well as fantastical, often monstrous, creatures. Their suggestive imagery established what would become the most pervasive themes in Symbolist art: love, fear, anguish, death, sexual awakening, and unrequited desire. Woman became the favored symbol for the expression of these universal emotions, appearing alternately as wistful virgins and menacing femmes fatales.

These recent Peplum films, from Gladiator to Alexander, Troy, 300, Alexander, Noah or even the very bad Kingdom of Heaven, walk in the footsteps of Symbolism inspirations. Super-heroes movies follow the same pattern, I believe. It seems that the film industry find a big inspiration in myths and Biblical sources and that a regain of interest for these subjects in the past 15 years can not be ignored. Cinema gives us an overview of a déjà-vu ambition and try to make people escape from the boring and depressing reality, in the manner of the symbolists but through another material. As for “wistful virgins” and “femmes fatales”, it seems that nothing changed or am I wrong?

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Gustav Klimt

In terms of specific subject matter, the Symbolists combined religious mysticism, the perverse, the erotic, and the decadent. Symbolist subject matter is typically characterized by an interest in the occult, the morbid, the dream world, melancholy, evil, and death.

Vampires, zombies and others creatures, new forms of utopia or sexuality: does it ring a bell? Books or movies, these subjects are everywhere. Although in our pop culture, the world “decadent” does not totally apply because everything is often too polished. 

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Gustave Moreau

This was just an initial idea, I am not trying to say that “before was better” (there is no such a thing, except maybe if you are referring to The Garden of Eden), only that the spiritual values  that governed and guided our symbolists usually are, in our current pop culture, forgotten for the benefit of visual performances, false polemics, naive love stories or general interests and I find it a bit sad because there is a lot more to be inspired about. Indeed, what is left?

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Gaetano Previati

Sources : http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/symb/hd_symb.htm  and http://www.theartstory.org/movement-symbolism.htm

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A few days ago, a friend of mine bought a book called Dieu rend visite à Newton, literally God visits Newton, only available in french I am afraid.  You should take a look at the publishing house though, they have really nice and original books http://www.chemindefer.org/index.html. This friend showed me her new book and thanks to her because it was a revelation! I totally melt for it, specially the illustrations made by Mélanie Delattre-Vogt, a french artist who likes to collect teeth. She is as unique as her drawings. Check her work here http://www.delattrevogt.com/DESSINS.html

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In another style -you might have heard of her via tumblr, etsy or pinterest- I like the fresh, young and colorful world of the british artist Sandra Dieckmann. Here is her website http://sandradieckmann.com/ Two girls, two worlds, one passion. I am in love with both of them.

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Just discovered the incredible work of Carne Griffiths, based in London. He is “an amazingly creative artist who uses drinks like tea, brandy or vodka to create unique colors for his drawings”. How awesome is that?! http://carnegriff.wordpress.com/

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This piece is worked in brown havana ink with blue waterman ink, tea and water on stretched bockingford watercolour paper.”

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Book by its cover

I wanted to share some of my favourite books of all time (kind of “name-seven-books-who-changed-your-life”). I hope the diversity of these covers will tempt you to read them or at least will make you curious about their “inside world”. I am very sensitive to a nice cover: it can be an illustration, an abstract picture, a colorful background… I know we are told to “never judge a book by its cover” but I came to this conclusion that books usually are like people: the first impression is always (almost) the right one. I am not talking about the “physical” aspect but about the “attitude” and the feeling you have when you first see them. Books I mean, don’t mislead me (happy blink). In case you were looking for something to read, pick up one of these books and you won’t be disappointed, trust me on this.

  • East of Eden (1952), John Steinbeck.

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